Covering the first several weeks of Winston Churchill’s term as Prime Minister of England, this film meditates along with him, and England itself, as it is decided how they will respond the the Nazi sweep over Europe’s mainland; sue for peace or go to war.
I think it’s wonderful that we get this film the same year as Dunkirk (Christopher Nolan). This movie covers some of the same time period but where Dunkirk seeks to put you on the beach, in the boat, and in the cockpit, Darkest Hour puts you in the seat of power. You get all the information, all the politics, all the personal stories that the leader of this country gets, and you get to live in the full weight of what decisions he will make.
You see the deliberation over sending men to their deaths, the self doubt that causes one to wonder whether the decisions that have been made were right, and the pain of being unsupported and even undermined by those who disagree.
The movie is a little slow. If you are expecting a war film with soldiers charging across the battlefield, you will be disappointed. This is a very deliberate character study. There is really only one large decision that gets made in the film with a couple supporting smaller ones. This story is not about what happens but how and why and through whom it does.
That being said the most crucial thing in this sort of film is the acting, which is solid all around. Everyone is great, but let’s face it, this is Gary Oldman’s movie and he does not disappoint.
He disappears into the role seamlessly. The prosthetics are great, but we all know from other films, that is only a part of the transformation. The mannerisms, speech patterns, and gait, while I have no idea how accurate, cause you to forget that the person you are watching is an extremely recognizable actor. You forget that he isn’t an overweight foreign leader almost completely, and so the immersion that you as an audience member are able to achieve in this movie is the antithesis of our current ages fascination with blockbuster tent poles and celebrity.
If you watch a Tom Cruise movie you see Tom Cruise and I defy you to name Mark Wahlberg’s character name in the Transformers franchise.
But here, the man on screen is Churchill through and through. Listening to his speeches as he stirs a country to war, despite their trepidations you understand why he was EXACTLY the leader that England needed at that time. Even I, in my seat, a non-violent borderline pacifist, found myself gripping my armrest almost waving my ticket stub in the air, saying “Here here.”
A simply stunning performance.
I enjoyed this film immensely. It is perfectly primed for me to. I’m the target audience for this movie. I’m a film aficionado, history buff, and armchair student how what make people tick. If that is you, you’ll love this film.
It’s also a pleasure to be able to recommend a film about war that doesn’t glory in the carnage of battle. So many great films I could never recommend to certain audiences because of the violence but as most of this film takes place in committee meetings and war rooms it’s remarkable mild in its violence.
Same with language. While there are certainly swears in this film, they are not the sort of casually thrown out profanities that we are accustomed to in our culture of R-Rated Comedies. I would venture to say you will here far more swearing at a high school football game than in this film.
All in all, I would highly recommend this film to anyone with similar interests in history, or if you are just a mature enough person to handle the pacing and want to see a brilliant performance by a veteran actor.
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